Singing ‘God Bless America,’ veterans and other citizens attending the annual POW/MIA ceremony held June 1 atop Prospect Mountain hold their hands up in solidarity to honor those who’ve sacrificed in our nation’s wars and conflicts.
The release Saturday of a U.S. soldier held captive for five years in Afghanistan was a welcome development — but more action should be taken to determine the fate of many other soldiers who are POWs or missing in action, a veterans’ advocate told citizens at the POW/MIA service June 1 atop Prospect Mountain.
Don Amorosi, president of the Northeast POW/MIA Network and guest speaker for the 44th annual ceremony, talked about the controversial prisoner exchange — Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Idaho for five high-level Taliban officials held at Guantanamo Bay.
“Bowe Bergdahl is home because of people like you — average Americans,” Amerosi said to those attending the POW/MIA ceremony.
Amorosi, a Navy veteran, continued that politicians will be attempting to take credit for his release, but it was actually due to citizens across the nation lobbying on his behalf, he said.
Amorosi blasted the U.S. government, saying they had established a “horrendous practice” since World War II of abandoning their POWs and those missing in action.
“Our government let them go because is was more expedient — They weren’t willing to fight for a few thousand Americans who sacrificed so much for their nation,” he said. “One American in the hands of the enemy is one too many.”
Amorosi said Bergdahl’s return should be celebrated, and that he was offended that some have called the prisoner exchange a raw deal.
“You should be very proud of anything you may have done,” he told the assembled citizens, including many motorcyclists. I hope we establish a consciousness that any man or woman in uniform is never deemed expendable.”
Veterans’ organizations from Warrensburg, Lake George, Chestertown, Glens Falls, Indian Lake and Queensbury at the ceremony were augmented by other groups from as far away as Broadalbin and Schenectady.
Warren County American Legion Commander Gene Pierce of Warrensburg, organizer and emcee of the event, took a new course for this 44th edition of the POW/MIA ceremony.
Pierce paid tribute to the emergency responders represented in the ceremony’s color guard, which included members of the Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co.
He praised them for their service, while referring to the firefighters’ hundreds of comrades in New York City who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“You emergency responders — firefighters, EMTs and police — are now our first line of defense in our nation,” he said, noting he had lost 23 acquaintances in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks — people he had trained when he was serving as an emergency services instructor for the New York City Police Department years ago in the Bronx.
Northern Warren County was well represented in the POW/MIA ceremony — Warrensburg High School Band Director Denise Foster played Taps, which was accompanied by a rifle-fire salute and laying of wreaths.
Michelle Bedell of Warrensburg Post 446 American Legion Riders led the Pledge of Allegiance. Pierce and Terri Waterston, who organized the POW/MIA ceremony for many years, laid the ceremonial wreaths.
Jim Corriveau, vocal instructor at Warrensburg High School, opened the ceremony with the National Anthem, and ended it with “God Bless America,” at which time the crowd held hands in solidarity, raising them above their heads in unison during the final refrain — as a Bald Eagle circled overhead.